Kiddush club on the Hudson
By Jeannette Friedman
NEW YORK –Pier 60 juts out into the Hudson River, about three miles north of where a handful of Jews fleeing pirates of the Caribbean and the Portuguese landed about 350 years ago. The golden setting sun and the mighty river that reflects it at the end of the pier haven’t changed in all those years. But the tiny Dutch trading post and fortress called Neuwe Amsterdam sure has, and so have the people who have inhabited the fair isle of Manhattan. Now New York has one of the largest Jewish populations in the world—and people want to write their business.
So on February 1, 2010, Royal Wine Corporation moved their trading post to Pier 60, where they showcased 250 fine wines and liquors, including single malt Scotches and specialty vodkas. Also strutting their stuff were caterers and restaurateurs with international menus who gathered under one roof and put it out there for the crowds. Their tables were spread across the western end of the hall, where the spectacular view almost made you forget the food…but not for long.
The doors were opened to those who paid $100 a head and the hordes descended. It was as if a magic door in a shul had opened into a gi-normous Kiddush Club, and everyone was hungry and thirsty after the rabbi’s sermon.
Masses of men, most of them Orthodox, and many of them Hasidim, descended upon the tables, wine glasses in hand, to taste, sip and slug down whatever they could. Most of the men piled their plates with refried beans, sushi, sesame chicken and good old fashioned goulash, as they went back for refills of their favorite wines. The few women in the crowd tasted bits here and there and sipped real French Champagne with a hechsher. They sampled specialty salads served in Martini glasses from Abigael, one of the fanciest caterers in town and commented on presentation. Their companions preferred Dougie’s. And the buzz among the foodies was that Pomegranate was “best in show.”
A few of those masses packed on the pier understood the art of tasting, asked to have their glasses rinsed between different wines, swirled the pinks, reds and whites around, sniffed the tops of their glasses, made some comments, sipped and spit, took notes and placed their orders.
As for the rest, well, let’s just say a good time was had by all—and there were plenty of cabs at the door.
Friedman is San Diego Jewish World’s bureau chief for the greater New York area.